Is there anything that can be done to prevent mould? Absolutely—the key to mould control is moisture control. Mould growth often occurs when excessive water accumulates indoors, particularly if the moisture problem goes uncorrected. Mould damage can be costly and depending on your property insurance coverage, you may not be covered.
While it is impossible to eliminate all mould spores, controlling moisture can prevent their growth. By solving all moisture problems before they escalate, you can prevent damage to building materials and furnishings, save money, and avoid potential health problems.
Moulds are organisms that breakdown animal matter and dead plants. Though most moulds grow outdoors, they can travel inside by way of open windows and doors, air conditioning systems and on pets, clothing and shoes. Once inside your home, mould needs a moist food source, such as lint, ceiling tiles or wallpaper, to grow.
Try these mould prevention tips to keep it out of your home:
- Clean up any water damage or flooding thoroughly and immediately.
- Use a dehumidifier and a wet/dry vacuum to remove water quickly.
- Remove carpeting that cannot be dried out within 48 hours. If your carpet was contaminated by sewer water or a flood, it needs to be replaced.
- Repair basement cracks so that moisture cannot seep in.
- Add mould inhibitors to paint.
- Use a dehumidifier and/or air conditioner to reduce indoor moisture, especially during humid months of the year.
- Empty the drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator and dehumidifier on a regular basis to prevent water buildup.
- Run the exhaust fan for 20 minutes before and after showering, or consider using a humidistat-controlled fan that turns off when the moisture is ventilated from the area.
- Fix plumbing leaks immediately. Mould will begin to grow within 24 to 48 hours after a leak.
A mould problem can cause serious health effects, especially for young children, the elderly, those who suffer from allergies or asthma and those with prior respiratory conditions. Symptoms of mould sensitivity include: eye irritation, nasal stuffiness, shortness of breath, wheezing and mould infections in the lungs (in rare cases).
If you or a family member is experiencing some of these symptoms, consult a physician for an evaluation and diagnosis.
Mould prevention tips for commercial buildings:
- Be alert for condensation and wet spots.
- Repair plumbing leaks and leaks in the building structure as soon as possible.
- Look for condensation and wet spots, and fix source(s) of moisture incursion as soon as possible.
- Act promptly when water leaks or spills occur indoors. Promptly stop and clean any initial water infiltration within 24 to 48 hours, and remove water-damaged materials to prevent or limit mould growth.
- Prevent moisture from condensing by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level (humidity) in the air. To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation. To reduce the moisture level, you need to repair leaks, increase ventilation if outside air is cold, and dry or dehumidify if outdoor air is warm and humid.
- Keep HVAC drip pans clean, flowing properly and unobstructed.
- Perform regular building and HVAC inspections and maintenance, including filter changes.
- Maintain indoor relative humidity below 70 per cent, ideally between 25 and 60 per cent.
- Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside where possible.
- Vent kitchens and bathrooms according to local code requirements.
- Clean and dry wet or damp spots as soon as possible but no more than 48 hours after discovery.
- Provide adequate drainage around buildings, and slope the ground away from building foundations. Follow all local building codes.
- Pinpoint areas where leaks occurred. Identify the cause and take preventive action.
Questions to determine whether a mould problem exists:
- Are building materials or furnishings visibly moisture-damaged?
- Have building materials been wet more than 48 hours?
- Are there existing moisture problems in the building?
- Are building occupants reporting musty or mouldy odours?
- Are building occupants reporting health problems that could be related to indoor mould?
- Has the building been recently remodelled or has the building use changed?
- Has routine maintenance been delayed or the maintenance plan been altered?
If you are unable to prevent the growth of mould using the techniques listed above, remediation will identify and correct the conditions that permit mould growth as well as offer steps to safely and effectively remove mould-damaged materials.
Before planning the remediation, assess the extent of the mould or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials. If you choose to hire outside assistance to do the cleanup, make sure the contractor has experience with mould remediation.
The remediation plan should include steps to permanently correct the water or moisture problem. The plan should cover the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). It should also include steps to carefully contain and remove mouldy building materials in a manner that will prevent further contamination. Remediation plans may vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the job and may require revision if circumstances change.
Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mould, as it could spread contamination throughout the building. If the water or mould damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water, consult a professional who has experience in this area.
The remediation manager’s highest priority must be to protect the health and safety of the building occupants and the workers. Remediators should avoid exposing themselves and others to mould-laden dusts as they conduct their cleanup activities. Use caution to prevent mould spores from being dispersed throughout the air where they can be inhaled by building occupants. In some cases, especially those involving large areas of contamination, the remediation plan may include temporary relocation of building occupants.
If you need assistance with developing a mould remediation plan, please contact Scrivens today.